The U.S. Navy’s largest operational helicopter, the MH-53E Sea Dragon, has landed on the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.
The landing of the mammoth Sea Dragon follows the first appearance of F-35 Lightning II fighter jets on the carrier last month. Flight trials for the jets are ongoing off the east coast of the United States, where the 65,000-tonne warship is currently on a deployment called Westlant 18.
The helicopter’s visit gave Queen Elizabeth’s aircraft handlers the opportunity to work with the US aircraft and means they can now operate from the British carrier.
Commander James Blackmore is the Commander Air – also known as ‘Wings’ – on board HMS Queen Elizabeth and is in charge of flight operations. He said: “Proving we can operate with yet more US aircraft on board gives us more flexibility and adds to our own capability.
“It gives us a lot of options. It is another example of the fantastic relationship we have with our closest naval ally, as we are proving throughout Westlant 18.
The 100ft long, 33-tonne MH-53E Sea Dragon can carry up to 55 troops and flew to the carrier from Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field, a U.S. Navy air station in Norfolk, Virginia that is a part of Naval Station Norfolk. The Sea Dragon was derived from the CH-53E Super Stallion and is heavier and has a greater fuel capacity than its ancestor.
The MH-53E is used primarily for Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM), with secondary missions of vertical shipboard delivery and assault support. The helicopter which visited HMS Queen Elizabeth belongs to the Navy’s Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 (HM-15) “Blackhawks”.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has her own set of Merlin (AgustaWestland AW101) and Wildcat (AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat) helicopters operating in her task group.
Queen Elizabeth has completed a 3,400-mile long journey across the Atlantic to the east coast of the USA after departing her homeport of HMNB Portsmouth on Aug. 18. The deployment, known as WESTLANT 18, was the first-time the aircraft carrier has sailed across the Atlantic. The 65,000-tonne carrier arrived at Naval Station Mayport in Florida on Sept. 5 marking her first visit to the U.S.
More than 1,400 sailors, flight crew and Royal Marines have been working on board the carrier during her deployment.
The Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will project British military power across the globe for the next half a century. Construction work continues at a pace on board HMS Prince of Wales, the second aircraft carrier in the class, which nears completion at the Rosyth shipbuilding yard.
They will be used to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, strengthen defence relationships with our nation’s allies, and support British armed forces deployed around the world.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is on track to deploy on global operations from 2021.